Anyone who has spent any amount of time online has come into contact with them. Some are harmless and annoying, some just love getting a rise out of you on Facebook. But they haunt the comments sections of every news article from their mothers’ basements while scarfing down vast quantities of Hot Pockets worldwide. Who are they? Trolls. For those of you who don’t know what online trolls are (because you don’t use the internet often, have no social media accounts, or generally just live under a rock somewhere in the woods…and as a result are probably the happiest people on the planet), internet trolls are people who delight in the emotional torture of strangers online whom they’ve never met.
The attacks vary from just your average vulgar insults about appearance or IQ to rape and death threats and doxxing—the release of personal information like home address, cell phone number, bank accounts, etc., with calls for bad people to do bad things with that information to harm the target. It can also escalate into the ultimate in trolling, swatting, which involves making false calls to law enforcement to get them to send a SWAT team to the target’s house, thereby putting them in imminent danger of being killed by police or seriously injured. Whatever level of trolling these people engage in, studies say they are psychopaths.
I could have told the scientific community this information with no grant money necessary. What else do you call someone who hunts a target online to threaten to rape her to death with a baseball bat and then do the same to her children? Someone who then creepily describes the children in detail showing her that he knows how many she has and whether they are boys or girls?
When I went to war with a public body that hid sex crimes from the public, I received gory necrophiliac photos that had to be illegal and links to horror torture porn sites (the very definition of obscenity). 4chan psychos passed around my address and called for people to shoot me in the head, and photos of my children were grabbed off social media and photoshopped onto pornographic images.
The line between free speech and unprotected speech seems like it should be clear. Threatening to rape and kill children isn’t exercising the First Amendment, it’s a crime. But unfortunately, law enforcement is too
lazy busy to take it on. (And you can read all about those attacks and the negligent law enforcement in Illinois in chapter 35 of my new book, Shut Up! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment, for sale on Amazon now! Clickety-click!)
The First Amendment is under attack, most notably on Twitter where conservative Milo Yiannopoulos from Breitbart has been permanently banned because he didn’t like someone’s movie. He said something negative about some actress’s spelling abilities (which were demonstrably lacking) and from that he was labeled a hate speechist and deleted from Twitter. Strangely, Milo was held responsible for trolls who sent the actress vulgar tweets, even though he wasn’t involved. Instead of banning the trolls, Twitter banned Milo, who is clearly not a troll and just a cheeky gay fellow with great hair and chiseled cheekbones (and a serious disappointment to straight women everywhere).
Anyone claiming that trolls are a scourge we all have to deal with because of “free speech” is out of her minds. There are laws that protect us from death threats through the mail or over the telephone and no serious person ever said it’s a free speech violation to stop psychos from mailing threatening letters to people. But the law simply hasn’t caught up to social media, so for now it’s a free-for-all of illegal behavior that no one bothers to stop.
It appears that since law enforcement has been so slow to apply existing laws to online harassment, people are just getting used to it. But while trolling goes on unchecked, very few seem to have a problem with people like Milo being censored and silenced in the media for a simple opinion about a movie. (And although Twitter is a private company, it is absolutely part of the new media as it acts as the driving force behind what’s trending in news these days and should adhere to American standards of liberty since it is an open public forum.) If the Ghostbusters actress was offended by Milo’s mild criticism, she could have used her “mute” or “block” buttons. Instead she reported him and had him thrown off Twitter for not liking her movie. Meanwhile, trolls all over the internet are threatening people (including children) with rape and death and no one is doing anything about it. But rest easy, that dangerous faggot Milo has been silenced!
Have you been targeted by trolls? Where do you think the line is between free speech and criminal statements?